How I learned to stop worrying and love Broadway

Originally Published in The Guardian September 28th

After years of fringe productions, one of my plays is finally being staged on the Great White Way. It’s like moving from a studio to a penthouse …

I was at a party a couple of years ago where a group of off-off-off-Broadway theatre artists sat around and watched the Tonys, which was just a bad idea on every imaginable level. Everyone got drunk on red wine and screamed at the television set until the only sanguine member of the group, a preposterously hip avant-garde director from Argentina, observed: “Why are you so upset? This is all a circus.” People nodded furiously and drank some more wine.

Anyway, last spring, when Manhattan Theatre Club told me they wanted to produce my play Mauritius on Broadway, it took me a little while to catch up. I was so used to thinking about “Broadway” as something truly Other, that it actually took me a minute to comprehend that I might even like it. Then a whole bunch of different people – not my wild little gang from the party, but other people – started saying to me “You’re having a play on Broadway!” in a tone that very much sounded like “You’ve finally made it!”

It was as if the 10 plays I’d done off-Broadway sort of didn’t count, compared to Broadway. It hurt my feelings, honestly, but I suspect these gushers meant well. Because Broadway really is, you know, Broadway. It’s like moving into a big penthouse when you’ve been living in a nice little apartment. Not that the old place was so bad … but this new place is unbelievable.

So in case there was any doubt, I am here to report that having a play on Broadway does not suck. The sets are bigger, the lights are prettier, the seats are more comfortable, and if you play your cards right, the actors are so blindingly brilliant that you burst into tears in the rehearsal room, overwhelmed by the privilege of listening to artists of this calibre say your words. (That did, in fact, happen to me.) With a little luck, you end up with a director who is a major genius. (Also happened to me.) Your name is on a marquee. Your theatre has history. (No Exit premiered there. Mae West got arrested there.) There’s a turntable, so the set changes happen in seconds. Everybody makes enough money so they can actually pay their rent. And your name gets recognised by the maitre d’s of some really nice restaurants, who are only too happy to find a table for you. Because you’re not just some bonehead playwright: you’re a Broadway playwright.

“A play on Broadway,” my friend Susan David Bernstein said to me, over lunch in the cafeteria of the Brooklyn Museum. “You know, that doesn’t happen to very many people.” I thought, that’s actually true; it really doesn’t. And it’s happening to me.

People ask me what it’s like. All I have to say is … it doesn’t suck.